David Wray

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Value-Based Decision-Making is the Secret to a Happier Life

Gilbert assessing values in the workplace.

What are values?

Merriam Webster defines a “value” as something of relative worth, importance, or something (such as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable. Values are a strong influencing force because values classify how we attach significance, worth, importance, and meaning to things. When our values match with our decision-making, we feel content and satisfied and conversely, when there is a mismatch, we feel unsettled or dissatisfied.

This starts to explain why different people process the same thing in different ways, or why we ourselves can sometimes process the same thing in different ways (as our frame of mind changes throughout the day). The reason for this difference is essentially value-based decision-making.

But how does this extend to personal or business decision-making? Great question, which we will look at next through an example in Jamie.

A typical case of value misalignment with decision-making

Jamie, in her early 30s, completed a leadership development program a couple of years ago. One aspect of the program was a values exercise, more specifically one designed to develop clarity around the priority of her values. During this exercise she prioritized her values as follows:

  1. Family
  2. Friends
  3. Career
  4. Health
  5. Fun

Jamie was living the dream until her manager asked her to join an elite team of acquisition experts to complete a strategic takeover. She went from a predictable work-life (let’s say 40-45 hours/week) to one that now averages 60-70 hours/week. She no longer has time for friends and is spending a bare minimum with her family. Jamie feels trapped between a rock and a hard place, no one is happy, including herself. She speaks to her career coach, Jonathan, and asks for help. She wants to find a sense of happiness again. How might Jonathan tackle this situation (without telling Jamie what to do)?

Values and decision-making

Before Jonathan tackles his case, it’s helpful to share some insights to help him. Personal values directly correlate with outcomes and goals throughout our lives. In effect, our goals are a visible expression of our values, as becomes decision making.

How we perceive a given situation is determined by our values. For example, an individual that values prudence will approach rock-climbing by considering risks, whereas someone that values fun will have a completely different perspective on the same rock-climbing opportunity. Now we hold a clearer view of how values and decision-making intersect with each other. So, values lay a foundation for the outcomes we desire where decision-making supports (or hinders) achieving those outcomes.

A few helpful guiding principles for value-based decision-making

Table on principles for value-based decision making. Copyright D.Wray 2021

Final thoughts

In each decision and action, we are either moving forward (towards) or backward (away from). As human beings, we need to develop and progress by moving forward. So by understanding our personal core values, we hold the keys and a roadmap for a more fulfilling life.

Equipped with these guiding principles, how would you guide Jonathan to help Jamie solve her dilemma?

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your views and ideas for helping Jonathan to coach Jamie through her values to decision-making misalignment.

Give it a try!

Cartoon credit: Scott Adams

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